For insurance recovery attorneys, one of the more frustrating ways for a policyholder to lose coverage for a property loss is on the basis of late notice. Property insurance policies generally require the policyholder to give the insurance company “prompt notice” of claims and potential claims. Property policies may specify a timeframe in which the policyholder must give notice, but in many cases do not. New York courts routinely hold that short delays, even as little as one to two months, suffice as a basis to deny coverage where the policy has “prompt notice” requirements. Under New York law, however, an insurance company can waive its late notice defense by not raising it explicitly when it finally disclaims coverage. Indeed, recently, a federal court in New York court rejected the insurance company’s late notice defense, even where the policyholder conceded that it did not provide prompt notice as a matter of law, because the insurance company failed to explicitly deny coverage on that ground.
Summary of recent New York federal court decision
In Mave Hotel Investors LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, the plaintiffs (“Mave”) sought coverage for property damage at its hotel following the termination of its contract with a human services organization housing formerly homeless families with children at the hotel. No. 21-cv-08743 (JSR), 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62718 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 2023). Mave alleged that its rooms were damaged while the families were living there. The insurer, Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London (“Lloyds”), ultimately denied coverage the ground that any damage was caused by ordinary wear and tear, an excluded cause of loss. At trial, however, Lloyd’s moved for summary judgment, arguing among other things, late notice.